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Star Wars lessons for product development

As preparation for a visit to the cinema to watch the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, I thought it prudent to watch the previous seven films, just as a refresher. Not binge watching, mind. I spread it over a few days, which gave me plenty of time to discuss plot lines, character development, Easter eggs and more with the unbelievably patient Mrs Simms, who, to her credit, had a really good go at joining in the discussion. Without going into Rogue One (some of you out there might not have seen it yet, and I’m not one for spoilers), something struck me about a change in approach between episodes IV (A New Hope), V (The Empire Strikes Back) and VI (Return of the Jedi) as a batch, and episode VII (The Force Awakens). 

In episode IV (A New Hope) we meet the young Luke Skywalker for the first time, helping out on Uncle Owen’s farm and dreaming of joining the rebellion against the Empire. In the middle of the film, he meets Ben Kenobi, a Jedi Knight, and begins a long journey of learning about the Force and becoming a Jedi himself. Bearing in mind that the Force was “strong in this one”, by the end of the film he was only just starting to get to grips with a lightsaber, and barely able to channel the Force at all. 

Fast forward to episode V (The Empire Stikes Back), and Luke Skywalker has travelled to Dagobah in search of Yoda to learn more about becoming a Jedi. After a lot of intense training, he eventually abandons Dagobah prematurely in order to rescue his friends. An untimely encounter with Darth Vader sees Luke losing a hand.

Fast forward again to episode VI (Return Of The Jedi), a full year on the timeline following The Empire Strikes Back, and Luke Skywalker can finally call himself a Jedi, having completed his training. And all of that seemed entirely reasonable to me, because that’s how long something like that really ought to take, however strong in this one the Force may or may not have been. However, and I’ll preface this next sentence by mentioning that initially I was slightly irritated, in episode VII, Rey – the scavenger abandoned as a child on the desert planet of Jakku – unaccountably masters both the lightsaber and the Force within the first couple of minutes of picking up the Jedi’s weapon of choice.

The thing is, though, this is the way of the world now. Instead of my focusing on the diminishing attention spans of the younger generation, I should have immediately recognised the more important message of the film about how crucial it is to compress time to market. These days we simply don’t have the luxury of years of development – those cycles have to be compressed so that we can get our product onto the shelves before the competition and before consumer requirements change. Without that timescale compression, we risk – at best – losing market share, and at worst missing a market opportunity completely.  

Mark Simms Editor

 
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